small engine repair

behold the humble coleman generator, picked up on craigslist for a song.  as miserably loud as it is weak and unreliable (insert grimacing self-portrait here).  designed to charge our cellphones when THE BIG ONE comes.

when i heard president fuckface was sending an armada of warships to north korea, it seemed a good time to head out to the shed, slosh around my secret cache of fossil fuel, dust off the lowly coleman and brush up on my survivalist skillset.

tried tugging on a rope starter lately?  it’s like the hoola hoop, or doing a front roll.  used to be fun.  now about five tries had me wheezing against the force of that massive Briggs & Stratton piston.   i leaned hard against the beemer to think things over.

the words of slingblade came back to me: aint got no gas innet.

looked like paint thinner.

first i choked myself half to death trying to get a siphon going, then the thought struck, brightly but stupidly: i’ll just flip it on its side and let the old gas flow out.

when i came back all the gas was gone, but now a line of muddy oil was dripping out the throat of the potmetal carburetor, the toppled coleman lying prostrate over a dark puddle slowly expanding across the pavers below, just like a driveway shooting.

threw a wrench on these fancy high-tech drain bolts – one on each side! – and out came a bubbling crude so ancient i swear i spotted a few flecks of dinosaur carcass floating around in there.

fresh oil and gas, she was all worked up and so was i, sweating like a racehorse in the midday sun.

sawing at the rope starter i was drawn into a childhood memory of the time my brother and i found an old outboard motor abandoned by the road and carried it home like it was made of gold.

we took it to the cottage and spent the entire weekend taking turns hauling on the rope.  together we rope-started our little rowboat all the way around the lake, two times.  but we never got a kick or pop or spark of life out of that miserable engine.

so there i was huffing away, eleven again, accompanied now by the first stirrings of shooting pains along my left flank.   more beemer leaning hatched another idea:  starter fluid.

please understand: the opportunity to blast three blocks up to pepboys is what makes ownership of a 180-horsepower aprilia so practically appealing.   i mostly want my experiences intense and brief these days so i can get back to napping.

home with my little spray can of explosive, i began with a dash straight down the barrel.  pss pss tug tug.   and then, just at the dying spin of the seventh pull, a tiny detonation, the faintest little kick of life.

another hit of go juice.   first rip, it started, stalled.  more fluid: same thing.  and again.   it would run on the starter fluid, but wasn’t picking up any gas from the tank.


little bit of a sweat now.  i fired it up and, just when it was about to stall, zapped another charge of starter fluid down the bore.  it coughed like a kid on strong whiskey, then kicked again.  but it stayed alive.


it took a couple minutes of coaxing before the brave little coleman took its first faltering steps, gathered, and began drinking on its own.

just to be sure, i plugged in a hair dryer and when i clicked it on high the little engine bucked hard for a moment, like it had received its first solid kick in the nuts, then settled into a hot and deafening idle, weaker now, but steady.

when THE BIG ONE comes that will sound like sweet music echoing among the ruins, the only gas-powered 82-decibel hair dryer in all of los angeles county.

coupla giant dogs, tuned-up racebike, water tablets and my faithful Briggs & Stratton.  do your wurst, hideous trumpman.  we’ll be fine.


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